Tool Story

by Marlene Alexander

The expression "you only get what you pay for" isn't always true and knowing that many everyday items need only cost a dollar is good news indeed. Once inside a dollar store, it isn't hard to understand why they've become so popular. The best of them are large, stocked with a variety of useful items and so well organized that you always know which aisle to look in for a picture hanging kit or some new placemats.

With winter approaching, this is a good time to consider an emergency kit for the car. Mine consists of two parts. The first is for a situation we all hope we will never encounter. Still, it's best to be prepared for those "stuck-in-a-snow bank-and-who-knows-when-help-will-arrive" type of situations. Into a plastic shoebox, we put a box of emergency candles, a box of wooden matches, a lightweight emergency blanket, a length of polypropylene rope and a three-way flashlight with a blinking red light. To this, we added an orange traffic cone. Instead of the emergency blanket, you may prefer to pack some large garbage bags and I'm told that batteries do not last as long in the cold, so you should change them once a month in really cold weather so your flashlight will work when you need it most.

The second part of our emergency car kit is for tools. This one contains three screwdrivers, a locking clamp, regular pliers, two sizes of needle nose pliers, and an adjustable wrench. We've also added a 16' locking tape measure, a utility knife and a tire gauge, simply because they are useful to have on hand. You can get an all-in-one screwdriver at the dollar store but I liked these, for a dollar apiece, because they seemed sturdier and are magnetized at both ends, which is helpful to hold a screw in place until you get it started or to fish some small metal object out of a crevice. Two of these boxes of matches cost a dollar so the first kit, including the shoebox, costs $7. The toolbox and its contents cost $11. You will want to stock your emergency kits with the items you feel would be most useful to you in a car crisis.

In the home, it is useful to have some oft-used tools on hand for hanging pictures, measuring a window or fixing the screen door. The same little toolbox, containing a 10" metal claw hammer, three screwdrivers, pliers and a measuring tape, will tuck neatly away into a closet or cupboard so you don't have to rummage around in the garage looking for just the right tool for a small job.

The toolbox has a separate compartment in the top for storing small items like nails, hooks and screws, as well. Again, you will need to decide which tools would be most useful to you in your household, but these basics are a good place to start. Seven dollars gets you the toolbox and its contents as shown.

Marlene Alexander is a writer living in Ontario, Canada. For more on dollar store shopping, visit her website at

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